The goal of process mapping is to visually document the current or as-is state of a process. A process has an "item" or "thing" moving through it. The item might be a product, service, patient, invoice or even a microscope slide. The process consumes resources such as time and inputs as the item moves its way through the steps of the process to completion. The item may change shape or form as it moves through the process so it may not always be obvious to identify from start to end.
Process maps are typically:
- Function focused
- Prepared at a high level of detail
- Used to understand the as is process steps
- Not used to evaluate or make judgement about each process step
Steps for completing a process map:
- Create a SIPOC diagram.
- Clearly identify the start and end points of the process to be mapped.
- Walk through the process as if you are the item being passed through each process step, or ask people who do the process everyday- do not guess at process steps.
- Document all the steps of the process as they are actually being performed right now, not as perhaps you think they should be.
- You can use the standard mapping symbols if you prefer- ovals for start and end points, rectangles for an activity or step and diamonds for decision points. However don't become too concerned with the symbols, pay the most attention to capturing the process.
Value Stream Map (VSM)
A VSM is very similar to a process map, but it is created at a much higher level of detail and includes not only the flow of work, but also the flow of information and materials in the process. The VSM is focused on cycle time reduction and usually crosses functional boundaries and specific departments. Since VSM maps determine value, they are inherently customer-centric and designed to help users see hidden waste and wait times. The VSM can be created of the as-is process and also of "as it should be" process.